10 December 2013

Wig and gown

Does this remind you of King Canute seeking to hold back the waves?  Or do lawyers just want to keep modern reality out of their rule-driven little world?  The Guardian reports:
Jurors should face up to two years in prison if they search the internet for information about cases beyond the facts revealed in court, the Law Commission has recommended.
Judges should also be given powers to remove jurors' mobile phones, and all internet-enabled devices must be confiscated during jury room deliberations, according to the commission's proposals for reforming contempt of court regulations.
The report suggests that the attorney general ought to take on responsibility for ordering the media to remove previously published stories from websites if they are deemed to jeopardise a fair trial.
Responding to the recommendations, the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, said: "Juror contempt is a serious risk to justice but people are often not aware of the consequences."The Law Commission's proposal to make it an offence for jurors to search for information about their case on the internet or by other means would make the position absolutely clear and would, I hope, reduce the need for future prosecutions.
"[The law Commission has] attempted to strike a very careful balance between freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial. I will now need to discuss the recommendations carefully with my government colleagues before we respond formally."
I can see the problem, but I rather doubt that it would be desirable to restrict a citizen's access to information which is in the public domain.  Furthermore, judges - especially those sitting unassisted by juries - will be under no such restrictions, presumably on the basis that they are sensible enough to judge cases on the basis of the evidence heard in court,  Would it be impossible to ask juries to do the same, regardless of what they might have found out on the internet?


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